Mystery Mondays: Patricia F. Pagan On Writing In A Busy Life.

Welcome, Patricia F. Pagan. First, congratulations to Patricia on being a new mom. How she finds to time be a mom, write and work is a and we’ll soon learn about.

Writing When You’re Busy by Patricia F. Pagan.

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working adoptive mom, Approaching Footsteps, was published by feminist publisher Spider Road Press in late November. I am very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I am so pleased that readers are enjoying the four unique and suspenseful novellas, and I’m happy and that I am finally finding a path as a writer/parent of a young child. I have to beat back some tree limbs, and watch out for garter snakes, but the path stands firm beneath my feet.

Writers need time alone to create. Many writers are introverts. And, ask any parent, alone time gets chiseled out of sleep time. Whether at 5 am or 10 pm, it’s only when the kids sleep that mama is truly free to create. Taking alone time to invite the muse also means one has fewer hours in which to connect with other parents, a key to fighting isolation, and to getting tips for dealing with toddler temper tantrums in a quiet library. I met a writer and actress through my church who also has a toddler- and it has been great to commiserate in person, but also via email when we feel we need precious time to be alone. Other creative moms get it. They never say platitudes like “the days are long, but the years are short,” they empower you to take the time to write, because you’ll be happier, and then you’ll be a better parent.

In her recent piece, “For Writers Who Are Also The Mothers of Small Children,” Marcy Dermansky writes, “I want to hug every last mother-writer I know with a small child. I want to tell them it will be ok.”

It’s hard not to feel guilty when you choose an hour with your characters over an hour with your child. However, as writers, our words and tenacity define us. We are role modeling that creativity and doggedness matter. That stories merit time and attention. That fiction can be magic.

As long as I spend as much time as I can reading stories to my child, I know that it’s OK to take some time to craft them.

WHO IS Patricia Flaherty Pagan?

Patricia Flaherty Pagan loves writing and reading about complex female characters. She is the author of Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories and the writer of award winning literary and crime short stories such as “Bargaining” and “Blood-red Geraniums.” She edited Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers. She teaches flash fiction writing at Writespace in Houston. After earning her MFACW from Goddard College, she founded Spider Road Press to champion writing by and/or about strong women. Learn more about her recent release, Approaching Footsteps, and her upcoming events on her website: Follow her on Twitter : @PFwriteright

WHAT DOES Patricia Write?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Four compelling novellas add up to one suspenseful and entertaining collection.

Enjoy suspenseful tales with unexpected twists? These four compelling, unique novellas

by women will keep you guessing.

*Best-selling novelist Donna Hill spins a gripping tale of desperation and danger in “136 Auburn Lane.”

*Author Jennifer Leeper puts her own spin on noir fiction in “The Reiger File.”

*In “A Night with Kali,” writer & scholar Rita Banerjee blends a story of two unlikely allies trapped in a monsoon with a tale of murder and magic.

*In the historical novella “Brave Enough to Follow,” debut writer Megan Stuessloff tells the story of an interracial couple and the deadly price that must be paid for freedom.

*Editor Patricia Flaherty Pagan curates these rich narratives and the highlights of Spider Road Press’ recent flash fiction contests.

5% for Healing: Five percent of the proceeds from this collection benefit rape crisis and veterans’ charities.


Camp NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words in 1 month?

This year, I decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. When I checked out the process, I discovered there is such a thing as Camp NaNoWriMo that happens in July.

As far as I can tell the only difference is that in July, the participating author can select the word count. In November, everyone tries to write 50,000 words in a month.

For Camp NaNoWriMo, I chose 50,00 words just to see if I could do it.

Here are my stats from yesterday:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.39 PM

I’m usually a panster, but writing 50,000 words in one month without an outline seemed intimidating, so before July 1st, I created an outline. Each day I write from the outline instead of having to come up with an idea.

Here are the projections:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.45 PM

I have to say, the process is motivating me to write. I’ve never written to a word count before, and it’s amazing that just by publicly saying what my word count goal is, I find the time magically appears when I can sit down and write.

So can I make it? I’ll let you now…

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.51 PM

Now I have to get back to writing and put 1,529 words on the page today.

Thanks for reading…


Mystery Mondays: A Gift For You

Today is the one year anniversary of Mystery Mondays.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 2.24.17 PMI’m very excited to announce Mystery Mondays: 2015-2016 Writing Tips From Over 30 Contributing Authors.

So many of the authors who contributed to Mystery Mondays agreed to have their posts included in this free book. If you’d like a free copy, just sign up for my newsletter. Assuming I’ve done everything right, you should be emailed a PDF version. I’m working on a mobi version to be released later.

Being a author and promoting ones’s books means living in an endless journey of learning something new. This is my first time using MailChimp, so please let me know if something doesn’t work or is inconvenient to use.

The contributing authors in alphabetical order are:

Cathy Ace, Judy Alter, Catherine Astolfo, Carol Balawyder, M.H. Callway, Melodie Campbell, Brenda Chapman, Viv Drewa, Ann Farnsworth, Gloria Ferris, Kat Flannery, Elinor Florence, Darlene Foster, Barbara Fradkin, Patricia Fry, Donna Galanti, Teagan Riordain Geneviene, Jesse Giles Christiansen, R.J. Harlick, J.D. Hawkins, James M. Jackson, Debra Purdy Kong, C.S. Lakin, Rosemary McCracken, Luke, Murphy, Lisa de Nikolits, Jessica Norrie, Michael Phillips, Katherine Prairie, Amy M. Reade, Garry Ryan, Laurence St. John, Judy Penz Sheluk, Eileen Schuh, Janice Spina, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Susan Toy, and  Tracy L. Ward.

Thank you to all who contributed to the book and to everyone who has been reading, commenting and sharing the posts.

To all contributing authors, I will send you a copy of the book, too!

And you know me, I can’t help but mention AVALANCHE, A Stone Mountain Mystery #3 is being released Saturday. You can pre-order for $0.99 USD for a limited time. The trade paperback is also now available on and will be released soon on the remaining Amazon sites.


Mystery Mondays: Susan Toy on Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

I “met” Susan Toy  when she agreed to host me on ReadingRecommendations. I was nervous approaching her and requesting a guest spot. But she generously welcomed me and showed me the ropes for guest blogging. Today, I finally get to return the favour by having Susan on Mystery Mondays.

Dancing the Sophomore Slump Two-Step

by Susan M. Toy

… or I’m Writing as Fast as I Can!!It’s been four years since I published my first novel in the Bequia Perspectives series. Four long years. I began writing Island in the Clouds in 2001 with the intention of eventually writing and publishing a quartet of novels all set on the Caribbean island of Bequia and involving murder and mystery of some sort or another. So I gave the first novel that sub-title, suggesting the books that followed would be written from various perspectives of people living on the island. My cover designer, Jenny Ryan, further sealed the deal by adding a “1” to the top of the spine of the print edition. There was no going back on my word.

cover susan full colour jan2012 - large - Copy

In 2004, I completed the first draft of One Woman’s Island. 2006 saw the major completion of Number Three, Tropical Paradox (I wrote this for the Humber School of Creative Writing program). Number Four in the quartet (working title: Menopausal Mamas) began as a NaNoWriMo project, but it quickly developed into another novel set on Bequia. 2007 was when I wrote the bulk of that novel.

I tell you all this, because it’s not for lack of material I haven’t yet published another novel in this Bequia series.

I just happen to be the Queen of the Procrastinators. Heck! Writing this guest blog post is another means of procrastinating!! Procrastination is not my only problem, however. It’s what leads me to procrastinate that I want to address here. After all, it’s not like I’ve just been too lazy to get that second novel prepared and published. (Well, I have been sort of lazy, but there have been other mitigating circumstances.)

Over the past four years (I ePublished Island in the Clouds in Feb. 2012) I have promoted myself and my book, continued promoting other authors through Alberta Books Canada, looked for and developed new ways for all authors to promote themselves and their books; moved from Canada back to Bequia; developed the idea behind IslandShorts and ePublished (Oct. 2013) several short stories by J. Michael Fay and my own novella, That Last Summer.

I created the blog Reading Recommendations (Nov. 2013) and have promoted close to 300 authors from around the world (including Kristina Stanley! through that site. I have beta-read a number of author-friends’ manuscripts and helped them prepare for publication. I’ve been working with a new writer who will be ePublishing a full-length non-fiction book with photographs through IslandEditions. Bought a trailer in Ontario where I will now spend my summer months. I contributed a short story to Tim Baker’s collection, Path of a Bullet, and I’ve written a number of guest blog posts as well as series of posts on my own blog that have proved to be very successful. I even took part in a discussion on self-publishing held at the

I even took part in a discussion on self-publishing held at the Calgary Public Library when I was visiting the city last October. Oh, yeah – and I read A LOT of books! Drank buckets of coffee. (AND WAS SUCKED INTO THE FACEBOOK VORTEX FROM TIME TO TIME, OF WHICH I AM SORELY ASHAMED.)

So cut me some slack!

Truth told, though, I’m not being entirely honest with you about the real problem of what’s held me back from rewriting and publishing that second novel, and I’m here now to confess my sins. Much of what I mentioned above that has kept me busy during the past four years is indeed busy-work … and an excuse on my part. (Whoa! I just went into the kitchen to begin washing dishes in order to avoid writing about this problem of mine! Housework signifies serious work avoidance.)

The real problem lies in this being my second book – my sophomore novel. Let’s face it, I have been extremely lucky and blessed with the response to Island in the Clouds. Really, only a couple … okay, three, reviews that were less than stellar. The rest, and many written by readers I didn’t know before publishing, were nothing short of excellent and praising, and so many of those readers have been asking for another novel about Bequia, because they enjoyed the first that much. An author can’t ask for anything more!

Jenny Ryan has already designed a cover and it’s been sitting on my desktop ever since – for inspiration. That was the reason I placed it there, anyway.



I did receive some feedback about a few aspects of the first novel that have helped me make changes to the second. I had always intended the second to be written from the perspective of a different character than Geoff, the narrator in the first, but I’ve also decided to change a number of the secondary characters who were in the first novel and introduce new ones that are solely figments of my imagination. (No more “Is this so-and-so?” from readers who know Bequia.) I spent a lot of time, especially during this past year, recreating characters and adding new material to the story line. I’m just about finished with that, am finally working on the last chapter, and will send the entire manuscript on to my editor Rachel Small to have at it. I know there will be necessary rewrites after that, so my dream date of May 1st for publication has already faded away. I’ve decided not to make any more promises. This novel will be finished and published when it’s good and ready!

But all this does not explain my real reason for taking my time. In all honesty, I am downright scared of the dreaded …

Sophomore Slump!!!

You know, the second novel not living up to the enthusiastic reception of the first, that it’s all wrong and readers are going to hate it. My fear has kept me from the keyboard, has caused me to find other things to do – anything at all! – to avoid finishing and publishing, actually proving that my fears are true!

So that’s what it’s all about, Alfie. (And Tim and Rachel.) And the more often well-meaning friends ask, “When will your next novel be published?” the more I dig in my heels on my way to the computer, do an about-face, and find something else to spend my time on instead. Oh, look! Another author who needs to be promoted!

This guest blog post for Kristina’s Mystery Mondays was originally intended to be a little shove in the right direction, to encourage me to finish, because I now had a deadline to meet. When we discussed my writing something for her blog, I really did believe I’d have One Woman’s Island published by this date, so my post should have acted as a promotion of the book. Instead, I’m leaving you, Kristina’s readers, with a link to the first novel (in case they haven’t read it yet) and a promise that the second novel will be finished and published … soon. I hope. But not before it’s time.

Reminds me of this old Orson Welles commercial …

But right now I do believe it’s time to make another pot of coffee.

SusanToy-1Susan M. Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishers’ sales rep, and is a promoter of books, authors and reading. You may learn more about Susan here.

For more information about her published books, click here for Island in the Clouds and here for That Last Summer.






Mystery Mondays: Kathy Prairie On Inner Voices and Her New Release

Thirst webToday on Mystery Mondays we welcome Canadian author Kathy Prairie. This is a special week for Kathy. Her novel, THIRST, is now available for pre-order and the official launch is February 18th. Yup, That’s this Thursday.

I’m thrilled to be part of Kathy’s launch and to have her share her writing advice on “inner voices.”

To entice you to have a look at THIRST, R.J Harlick, a previous guest on Mystery Mondays has this to say:

“With compelling characters and an extraordinary setting, THIRST is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last word.” – R.J. Harlick, author of the popular Meg Harris mystery series

That’s just a teaser for now. The description of THIRST is as the bottom of the blog.

So on to Kathy and her advice on finding your inner voice…

INNER VOICES by Kathy Prairie

I’m delighted to join a fellow B.C. author today – thanks for the invitation, Kristina.

I’ve heard the advice “find your voice” at almost every writing workshop I’ve attended and while the concept seemed simple enough, trying to achieve it has been anything but. So today I’d like to share the three elements that were key to finding my voice: characters, perspective and style.

First a simple defintion of voice: It’s your signature, your way of telling a story. But I think it’s also that sweet spot where your sentences flow with ease and your characters come to life. If you find that spot you’re sharing your personality with your readers and your writing will be as unique as a fingerprint.

I’d suggest that you start with your characters because they tell your story. In our lifetimes we probably meet thousands of people and no two of the them are exactly the same and your characters should be unique too. There are many decisions here including gender, profession, physical appearance, personality and motivations and it can be tough! I’ve heard much advice about writing what you know, but I believe it’s more important to write about what interests you.

I’m fascinated by science and intrigued by politics and through my geologist Alex Graham, I’m able to weave these elements into my stories. She’s an interesting character to me, someone I’d like to know in real life and I look forward to writing more stories about her. Ask yourself what kind of personalities most interest you. Are you intrigued by the psychology of the criminal mind or the intellect of the puzzle-solving detective? If you follow your passion, you’ll create memorable characters and perhaps find a protagonist you love enough to include in another book.

Next focus on how your characters will tell their story. First person proved the most challenging for me, but I liked the resulting scenes. Omniscient on the other hand, never really felt right because of its impersonal nature. But limited third person felt right from the start because my story flowed effortlessly through each character’s viewpoint.

You might find that you naturally gravitate towards first person, omniscient or third person but it’s worth exploring each of them fully. A simple change from “she” to “I” can profoundly affect your scenes and I found that my style, the dialogue, the details – everything shifted as I moved from one perspective to another. I wrote three complete scenes in each perspective before finally deciding on third person and even now when I’m having trouble with a particular scene, I’ll switch to first person because it changes how I see the scene and often identifies the problem.

Once you’ve decided on perspective and characters it all comes down to how you tell your story. If you allow your characters to guide you, you may find that your style develops naturally. For example, a hard-boiled detective would tell a story differently than a twelve-year-old girl.

The nature of your sentences – smooth, choppy, long, short. The kind of language you use – gritty, soft. The level of description – too many adjectives, too few, too flowery, too blunt. All of these elements contribute to your unique writing style and you need to find what suits you best. I’ve found that some of the most interesting authors break the grammar rules, so go ahead and explore. Don’t get me wrong, your story has to be readable and you should never ignore the good advice of your editor, but you also don’t need to sound exactly like everyone else.

How you paint a scene or describe a character is equally important. Some authors include few details while others write long descriptions and especially if you’re a new author, you’ll likely favour one extreme or the other. Read your favourite authors. Do you skip over the details or read every word? You probably won’t feel any more comfortable writing loads of description if you don’t like to read it. But your challenge is to balance your natural writing style against the reader’s need for detail. Push beyond your comfort zone here and add a little more descriptive detail as you write, and vice-versa and you may find your answer.

Through characters, perspective and style I finally feel that I’ve found my voice and focusing on these elements might also work for you. Your voice will evolve over time as your writing matures – I’ve seen that happen already in my own work – but your overall approach should stay steady. And if you stay true to your personality your voice is guaranteed to be unique!

Kathy’s Biography

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 3.22.32 PMKatherine, a geologist and IT specialist, stepped away from the international petroleum industry to follow her passion for writing. An avid traveller with an insatiable curiosity, you never know where you’ll find her next! But most days, she’s in Vancouver, Canada quietly plotting murder and mayhem under the watchful eye of a cat. She is an award-winning presenter and the author of the thriller THIRST.




Science. Politics. Deadly Intent.

Deep in a Columbia River valley rocked by violence and tightly controlled by a U.S.-Canada military force, geologist Alex Graham is on the hunt for silver. Her plans are derailed when she joins the search for a suspected toxic spill as the victim count rises. But the lethal contamination is no accident.


Write Better Fiction: Point of View Character Goal

Feedback iconToday on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover the Goal of your Point of View Character. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

Last week I wrote about naming a scene. This week I’ll cover the goal of the point of view character. Each scene will have a point of view character, and we discussed this in #1 question to ask yourself about plot. ADD LINK

The point of view (POV) character must have a goal. Without a goal, what’s the point?

There are two types of goals:

Internal: The reader isn’t told what the POV goal is.

External: The reader clearly understands what the POV goal is.

Each POV character should have an overall novel goal. The most important goals should belong to your protagonist and antagonist. Of course, these goals should oppose each other.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 1.28.11 PMThe overall goal drives the character throughout the novel. In DESCENT, Kalin Thompson’s external goal is to find out who killed an Olympic-caliber skier. She has an internal goal that drives her through the first three novels in The Stone Mountain Mystery series, which I can’t share or it would ruin the mystery, but it’s there and influences how I write.

Finding a murderer is Kalin’s main goal throughout DESCENT. She also has goals within each scene where she holds the point of view. In the opening scene her external goal is to go skiing. Her internal goal is to be good at her job. Both goals will be tested very early in the story.

The reader doesn’t know about the internal goal, but it helped me create a focus and drive for Kalin in the next few chapters.

Other characters might have a goal in the scene. In fact, they should and it should be in conflict with the POV goal. This is a different column in the spreadsheet that we’ll talk about later.

Your challenge this week is to review each scene in your novel and determine what are the internal and external goals of each POV character. This will also focus you on the who has POV and give you another opportunity to check you’re consistent with the POV and that you’re not head hopping (unless it’s intentional). Please let me know in the comments if this helped you write better fiction.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Previous blog posts on Write Better Fiction:

Please me know in the comments below how you deal with the goal of your POV characters? Did you have difficulty defining a clear scene goal?

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Scene Naming

Feedback iconToday on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover NAMING A SCENE. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

Last week I wrote about the action in a scene. Maybe it seems odd I chose to fill out the action before naming the scene, but I have a strategy for this.

Did you find it hard to describe a scene in three sentences or less? Well, naming a scene is harder, but it help you hone the scene.

Scene NamesNow I’m going to ask you to use one word to name the scene. If you must, you can use two. I confess this sometimes happens to me.

Some writers list scenes with numbers only and that’s fine. For me, the exercise of naming the scene makes me narrow down what the scene is about. Since I already have the scene action defined in one to three sentences, the scene name might already exist somewhere in those words.

The Scene Name column is connected to the Purpose of a Scene column, and will help you discover what the scene is really about. The purpose of the scene is another place to look for hints on what to name your scene. At this point you may want to re-evaluate the purpose of the scene in case you’ve changed your mind based on the scene action and naming the scene.

The names of the scenes might give you insight into the theme of your novel.

Your challenge this week is to name each scene in your novel. Then let me know if this helped you focus your scenes.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Previous blog posts on Write Better Fiction:

Please me know in the comments below how you name your scene? Is it important for you to have a scene name?

Thanks for reading…